Last time we were reminded of an iconic catchphrase from the 90’s: “we were on a break.” As we worked our way through what this meant, we dived into a mindset change to rethink the traditional model of 9 to 5 life. In short, we broke down why employees need to be able to take a break from time to time and what that can look like.
Today, we want look at the benefits of workplace flexibility and downtime, but also reflect on some potential things to be aware of. Finally, we want to focus on what was missing from the original Ross and Rachel debacle from 1997 (yes it’s been that long!): respect.
What are the benefits of flexibility or more frequent breaks
When given control to work how they function best, employees are more productive. This loops us back to our hypothetical from the beginning of Part 1 of our series: an employee who is a) ethical b) trustworthy and c) given freedom is going to produce quality results. Period.
Therefore, why hold back your best team members just so you can stick to the 9 to 5 routine?
From a health perspective, employees who move during the day are going to be healthier. Sit to stand desks, walk breaks, and simply getting away from their seat are all practices that will contribute to better heart health, lower BMI, and potential cost savings on health care.
What are its downsides
Of course, with any kind of change it takes time to implement. If done too quickly and without a plan, you might see a communication breakdown between more employees who stick to structure and those who do not.
Be sure that ground rules are laid out for these kind of changes. If a remote employee chooses to split their day up, have a plan in place so they can still be reached if needed. Otherwise, frustration can set in before new work routines ever have a chance to get off the ground.
“We were on a break!”
Regardless of whose side you were on when the episode originally aired, 20 years removed (and hopefully a whole lot wiser) we can all see that a key word was missing between Ross and Rachel: respect. How does this tie us back to the office environment?
Number one, employees who are given the flexibility in their job must respect that freedom. There will be times when it’s necessary to step up and take care of something for your employer. Another pop culture quote is “With great power comes great responsibility” and this is incredibly true when you’ve been entrusted with a flexible work environment.
Some employers offer unlimited vacation days. Does this mean you can take the entire year off? Of course not, But it does mean you’ve been given an opportunity to work as you see fit. Therefore, you better be producing however many widgets your employer is depending to see from you.
And, while most of us will still work relatively traditional hours, when you’re been given the opportunity to take breaks as it suits you, know that there must be a balance between downtime and crunch time.
Secondly, employers who are evaluating more flexible work environments need to respect when their employees are genuinely off. Can that email wait until the next day, or does it really need to be addressed at 11pm? Sure, there will be times that something critical has to be taken care of, but likewise be gracious when the employee flexes their time later in the week.
Both sides must work together in order to make changes like this succeed. A hyperbolic response of “I was on a break” when your employer critically needs you is the first step in tearing down the trust that has been built. On the same hand, expectations to be connected outside of traditional hours should come with flexibility reflective of mutual respect.